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Free as the Wind

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Album Review

There's a terrific reason why the triple-CD Crusaders retrospective The Golden Years included six of Free as the Wind's eight tracks — the material. Indeed, side one of the LP version may be the strongest single side of original tunes that the band ever put together. It opens with Joe Sample's driving, tense title cut, and flows flawlessly through Stix Hooper's subtly funky "I Felt the Love," Pops Popswell's infectiously finger-popping "The Way We Was" (a high point in the Crusaders' groove collection), and Larry Carlton's steamy vehicle for Wilton Felder, "Nite Crawler." Even the two tracks that the box set left out — the galvanic "Feel It," driven by Sample's clavinet and Hooper's tom-toms, and "River Rat" — are as funky as you can stand it. And from out of the blue, Sample concludes the album with a lovely, wistful tune that may have become a standard, "It Happens Everyday." When the material is this good, everything falls into place from there; the grooves are deeper, the soloing by all five Crusaders is more melodic and probing, and while Sample provides a few brass and string arrangements, this is just harmless decoration, neither a necessity nor a hindrance. This would be the Crusaders' high-water mark in the post-Wayne Henderson years, and it can stand tall with anything they've done. ~ Richard S. Ginell, Rovi

Customer Reviews

The Beginning of the End of The Crusaders

This album, as described by another reviewer, clearly could be called "The Best Of The Crusaders". This was the peak of the group, and the last album Larry Carlton would record as one of the group. The next release, "Images", is also a great disc, and I highly recommend it. But, from there it was a somewhat-quick slide to 'boring' and 'lame'...."Rhapsody and Blues" was hit and miss, "Streetlife" had maybe two good songs, NOT including the crossover hit "Streetlife", but never again would there be a complete album that was listenable and funky all the way through. I saw them in concert after "Images" was released and not only was Larry gone, but "Pops" Popwell was replaced by Alphonso Johnson...and it appeared he hadn't read their charts, as he was all over the map. You could see Joe Sample clearly disgusted with his performance. Barry Finnerty, Carlton's replacement, worked with Miles Davis on Mile's later material. He likes the effects pedals and too much gain on his amp. That was good for what Miles was doing at that time, but not here. This is one of my favorite albums of all time; good, funky jazz, excellently played and masterly produced. Only one cut could be called 'weak', but overall it deserves a 5-star rating. This IS the Best of The Crusaders. Everything before this was also "The Best..", besides "Images", everything AFTER is inconsistent and almost painful to listen to, if only because they have so much talent and it was wasted, or forgotten, from then on. You won't go wrong with this disc. Excellent music from a top-notch line-up that was never to be again.

A Stellar Example of Jazz-Popular Fusion

Hot on the tails of the extraordinary Chain Reaction (also released in 1977), this masterfully produced compilation is a stellar example and a further evolution of the jazz-funk/pop-fusion genre. The Crusaders, clearly some of the finest contemporary jazz musicians of their time, exemplify their relationship with and commitment to 'jazz-made-accessible'. Beautiful songs, rich arrangements (including full orchestrations), catchy, funky rhythms and outstanding solos are at the heart of this 5-star project. One is left with a clear sense of this album (and its predecessor), as being a joy to produce and a labor of love.

Free As The Wind

The best of The Crusaders


Formed: 1960 in Houston, TX

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

Back in 1954, Houston pianist Joe Sample teamed up with high school friends tenor saxophonist Wilton Felder and drummer Stix Hooper to form the Swingsters. Within a short time, they were joined by trombonist Wayne Henderson, flutist Hubert Laws, and bassist Henry Wilson and the group became the Modern Jazz Sextet. With the move of Sample, Felder, Hooper, and Henderson to Los Angeles in 1960, the band (a quintet with the bass spot constantly changing) took on the name of the Jazz Crusaders. The following...
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Free as the Wind, The Crusaders
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